The news set off a scramble within the agency to alert the public and prepare signs for posting at dozens of popular river access points, work expected to take place Friday night, Fish and Wildlife Lt. Jim Jones said.
Fish and Wildlife wardens were busy throughout the day scouting anglers out in abundance to notify them the moratorium was in effect, making for some unhappy campers.
Bill Fitzpatrick, 62, of Rohnert Park, was among them, having taken two hours on Thursday to call different numbers at Fish and Wildlife trying to verify the river would be open to fishing on Friday.
All he could find was information indicating it would be alright to fish until at least Sunday, he said, so he was pretty ticked when he encountered a warden at the dock Friday afternoon telling him the party was over.
"A lot of (fishermen) take off at this time of year," Fitzpatrick said. "They leave their jobs, and that's all they do."
Steve Jackson, owner of King's Sport & Tackle in Guerneville, had a similar reaction, having taken Friday off to fish with buddies only to learn halfway through the day they had to pack up and leave.
"We called and called and called because we've been fielding a lot of phone calls from all over the Bay Area, people wanting to know when the river was closing," he said.
<NO1>"Everyone thought it was going to be open," one of his employees, Chelsea Bacon, said earlier in the day, after having to inform several customers they couldn<NO><NO1>'t fish. "They thought Sunday was the last day, or they assumed there would be some kind of notice."
<NO>But to be fair, the Department of Fish and Wildlife never asserted any certainty about when the moratorium would take effect because the review process that was out of its hands. Early notice called for mid-February, but officials had projected it would be about the 23rd, as well as they could estimate.
Biologists had urged anglers to pull their lines saying there was an urgent need to protect the fish because flows had gotten so low, stranding salmon and steelhead in the lower river. Recent rainfall boosted flows for more than a week, but the river is now back well under its seasonal average.
First proposed in late January and approved unanimously by the appointed, five-member Fish and Game Commission, the ban runs through April 30 along the main stem of the Russian River, from Jenner to the confluence with the East Fork north of Ukiah.
A large stretch of the American River also was closed this week, while many northern California rivers and tributaries are under day-to-day flow dependent closures.
Despite some complaints from the fishing community, Jones said agency wardens would begin issuing citations on Saturday to those caught fishing on the Russian River.
"The news release is out," he said. "The signs are going to be up. I've already had wardens out there warning people.
"They'll get a ticket," he said, "and then they can deal with the court."